Ninjutsu is probably one of my favorite Arts – its unique and unorthodox techniques, its higher-level, somewhat ethereal concepts, and the intriguing furtiveness captivated me from the get go. It is, truly, an Art…and as a dancer and ice skater at heart, artistry is my language.
I’ve (rather sadly) seen traditional Arts dismissed as irrelevant – many modern-day practitioners want techniques that they can apply to modern-day scenarios. Makes sense. But therein lies the deception. Being rooted in a deep and complicated history also means that there are thousands of gems lying within the teachings. Ones that have not only stood the test of time – when it was truly life and death – but ones that can also be very readily adapted and applied to “today.”
One of the most interesting facets of Ninjutsu is the whole air of “secrecy.” It sounds like an exaggeration but trust me, it isn’t. Even within the walls of an official school, we find lots of “Henka,”or variations on specific techniques – the thing is, they are not always relayed in a straight-forward fashion, and sometimes are only hinted at. For some Artists, that idea doesn’t go over (I can feel the eye rolls.)
While reading a Curriculum, for example, you might see images that don’t always jive with what the written directions are saying. It ISN’T a lost-in-translation mistake either. It’s completely deliberate.
The idea here is not that the “powers that be” of Traditional Ninpo are aiming to be unreasonably difficult, nor necessarily that they want to add some mysterious air that the Art can’t back up. It’s more about the principle that learning is very much about DOing. Your Sensei is “passing down” the traditions, so to speak, and it drives home the idea that just reading a book, going online, or cerebrally understanding concepts ISN’T enough. Martial Arts transcends any one approach – it takes grasping the fundamentals intellectually, absolutely, but the Art cannot be realized without being fully hands-on.
Taking it a step further, there are countless layers to the Art – you may learn a technique at one level, only to discover – throughout your own progression – profound jewels embedded deeply with in them…ones you neither could see, nor were capable of comprehending, in earlier training.
Ninpo embraces that we are not always ready for all of the “secrets” but that to develop our true “artistry” will take time, hard work, both finessing and breaking down the techniques until we can create our own. I suppose in a way many Martial Arts take that tact but here, some of the information is simply not shared until one has proven oneself to be ready.
The multi-faceted Ninjutsu is 1,000% NOT for everyone. It is acrobatic, intense, a little bit cryptic, unabashedly sneaky, and incredibly down-and-dirty at times. Remember, the Ninja needed to survive…not stand on the battlefield until they – or you – were terminated (a la Samurai.)
Ninjutsu focuses more on learning to keep distance, disabling, taking up an opponent’s space (including mental and spiritual) and getting away with one’s life. To me, that’s the ultimate – I never began Martial Arts to “beat someone up.” It’s an ART first and foremost for me, personally. But, should I be faced with a true threat, I want the ability (or at least the tools) to disable, disengage, and get to safety. It isn’t about “the fight,” but minimizing injury and getting away. No ego. No heroics.
Ninjutsu specifically will expose the student to everything from joint locks, small joint manipulations, grappling, takedowns, throws, sweeps, striking and weapons, to name a few. I love that we have the opportunity to have such exposure, as many Arts are much more limited in scope. That said, the journey for each practitioner is unique, and built upon vastly different goals – in my own heart, I believe all Martial Arts are worthy and beneficial, markedly different they may be.
Martial Arts isn’t for the faint of heart – Ninjutsu isn’t “gentle” by any stretch, but it does teach us skills by which we can learn to keep ourselves – and our opponents – safe. At the end of the day, however, we are taught that if we must overcome that individual, we must be prepared to do so. Fortunately in modern times we don’t have to take it quite that far (certainly not in practice!)
Sometimes techniques hurt, sometimes they baffle, and other times they’re a little difficult to track down…. But each one of them – both the clandestine and the clear – are there should we be required to use them.
Little things make me so happy…like the victory my school won in getting a sweatshirt with their name on it. The overarching brand generally doesn’t allow it, but I think we – the students – asked enough collectively that our instructor was finally heard by the powers that be.
We all have a sense of pride surrounding the quality of training, instruction, and of students who attend, so in a way this is like a show of support to sport the hoodie. For a Martial Arts school, you always hope that’s the case – the friendships forged there are meaningful because you are in the thick of it together. Even if you don’t hang out with everyone all the time, you know you can count on mutual respect and feedback when in the dojo. Since it isn’t ALWAYS the case, it’s a special thing to find that kind of environment. And as a result…wearing our name out an about puts a huge smile on my face. 🙂
More Martial Arts fun!
A friend of mine. . .er, a training partner. . .recently posted this. Humor to be found indeed!
Most of us see each other on the mat, in the Dojo, and sporting a gi. Period.
There are those rare occasions on which we are spotted in civilian clothing but generally speaking, “hanging out” translates to “sparring.” Again, period.
Even our Facebook message threads. . . it’s all about an impromptu class here, a “did you see that fight?!” there… Our social hour includes rolling, choking, striking…you know, the fun stuff. But I guess at the end of the day it all works out because we are on the same page…er, mat…right?
Don’t judge. We all have our thing!
So as a Martial Artist, I’m taught discipline and self-control. Those things are non-negotiable, especially when you are learning techniques that could save your life (and therefore very much injure another individual.)
I DEFINITELY have those things, and I DON’T take the responsibility lightly. Let me make that amply clear.
But I’m also not saying I don’t have the urge when I’m stuck behind an incredibly slow driver, inches below the windshield, hands at 2 and 10…and lack of directional control.
*insert heavy bag here*
Some of my training partners and I were talking about an issue (several, actually) that comes up a lot in Martial Arts (especially fuller contact ones) – staying clean!
It isn’t pretty, but it’s par for the course, so you just have to be prepared. It’s not only the fact that you are all up in someone’s face (which is a huge part of it), but also about fending off clogged pores, dirt and other offenders.
I ran across these Yes to Tomato Charcoal Facial Wipes recently and was honestly psyched to see them – I’m not crazy about some of the wipes out there because some just don’t feel like they get the job done. These, though, are formulated with charcoal – a pore-clearing, grime-busting substance that will provide and on-the-go detox when you simply don’t have other options. They also happen to be black, which my inner goth finds not-so-secretly satisfying. How badass of you, Yes To! 😉 )
The brand has a bunch of other ones too, but I like the idea that these amp up the impurity busting quotient – when you finish a Reflex Development class at Jiu-Jitsu, you WILL be sweating like a farm animal, and you’ll need that extra skin-clearing boost.
Toss these “LBG”s (cheeky, I like it!) in your gym / dojo bag and keep yourself clean wherever you are, and whenever you need it!
I try to split up my leg workouts these days, not because I can’t finish a workout focusing on quads and hams together…but more so because I am FAR too sore when I do both in the same day! The ramifications of that are not only discomfort on a higher scale, but the inability to train as well in the Dojo / Dojang / on the mats.
Glute recruitment happens either way, but some of the heftiest quadricep dominant and hamstring dominant are relegated to two separate days...meaning I split up the squats and leg press from the deadlifts and single leg deadlifts.
Now obviously, I’m using those muscles in all of the lower body exercises, but I have found that doing all of them in one day can be too much of a good thing, and I get better results when I am not totally decimated…
LEG DAY 1
- Deadlifts – 4 to 5 sets of 10 to 16 (depends on weight)
- Single Led Deadlifts – 3 sets of 12 with 45 lb dumbbell
- Hip Thrusts – 3 sets of 16 with 80 or 90 lbs (varied foot placement)
- Leg Curl – 3 to 5 sets (weight depends on machine)
- Straight Leg Cable Kickbacks – 3 drop sets using heavier weight, 3 sets lighter weight
LEG DAY 2
- Smith Machine Squats – 5 sets (varied weight and foot placement. I don’t go heavy here.)
- Walking Lunges or Step-Back Lunges – 6 sets, or equal to about 120 lunges, including both sides
- Leg Press – MAJOR Drop sets (3 sets with 10 45 plates, 3 sets with 8 45s, 3 sets with 6 45s, 3 sets with 4 45s, 3 sets of single leg presses with 2 45s.) Nasty. *LOL*
- Sumo Squats – 3 sets of 12 with 65 lb dumbbell
- Bent Knee Cable Kickbacks – 3 sets only if I’m not too sore!
- Leg Extension – 3 sets at 90 lbs, not too heavy
Basically at the end of the week it’s hard to walk! 😉 I LOVE lifting heavy, but I’ve also learned that sometimes I have to go easier, especially these days – because I do Martial Arts, flexibility is MASSIVELY important.
I need to be mindful and stretch, as well as foam roll (I need to be better about that) – heavy lifting WILL impede your flexibility, like it or not. Can you have both? Absolutely! But the reality is that you will be more limber when you don’t destroy your legs, so either going a little easier…or really making that time to stretch out…will make a difference – your goals will determine what works best!